The Act

Richard Chapelle ACS is camera operator for cinematographer Zack Galler on Emmy award-winning series The Act, starring Patricia Arquette and Chloë Sevigny – by Vanessa Abbott

Patricia Arquette (left) and Joey King on the set of 'The Act', with Richard Chapelle ACS behind-the-camera - PHTOTO Raymond Jones
Patricia Arquette (left) and Joey King on the set of ‘The Act’, with Richard Chapelle ACS behind-the-camera – PHOTO Raymond Jones

Dee Dee is overprotective of her daughter, Gypsy, who is trying to escape the toxic relationship she has with her mother. Gypsy’s quest for independence opens up a pandora’s box of secrets, which ultimately leads to murder. The stranger-than-fiction true-crime series is based on a 2016 BuzzFeed News article that detailed the shocking 2015 crime. Academy Award-winner Patricia Arquette stars in the Hulu original series, with Arquette winning the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress this year.

In August of 2018 award-winning Australian cinematographer Richard Chapelle ACS flew from Boston, Massachusetts, to Savannah, Georgia. The trip saw Chapelle meet with line producer Peter Meyboom and cinematographer Zachary Galler to discuss working on a limited series for Hulu entitled The Act. Meyboom and Chapelle had previously worked together in the rainforests and rivers of Far North Queensland on Canadian television series Peter Benchleys Amazon (1999), where Chapelle was the Australian main unit cinematographer.

After that initial meeting, Chapelle was brought on as the main unit camera operator in The Act. “I found myself working in beautiful Savannah on an eighty-seven day shooting schedule, Chapelle explains.

The Act is based on a true story of Dee Dee Blanchard, played by Patricia Arquette, who forced her child Gypsy Rose Blanchard, played by Joey King, to fake an illness for the first twenty years of her life. On 14 June, 2015, Gypsy Rose and her boyfriend, stabbed Dee Dee twenty times leaving her dead. The eight-episode limited series for Hulu also stars Chloë Sevigny as the neighbour who suspects that something isn’t quite right with the Blanchard family, along with appearances by Adam Arkin, Margo Martindale and Juliette Lewis.

“We shot the series on ARRI Alexa Minis in Anamorphic 2.8K ProRes 4444 XQ, with Panavision T-series Anamorphic prime lenses (28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 60mm, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm, 150mm, 180mm) and T- Series 37-85mm (T2.8) and 42-425mm (T4.5) Anamorphic Zooms, explains Chapelle. “Throughout the entire series, the lenses were near wide open, which my first assistant camera Josh Hancher handled with incredible proficiency. Our B-camera team of Danny Eckler on Steadicam, Warren Brace as first assistant camera and dolly grip Jeremy Wren made it a great crew to work with.

Chapelle had a number of Look-Up Tables (LUTs) that were dialled in to primarily set the mood for the different years from the late 1990s up to 2015, while also utilising a variety of filters such as Hollywood Black Magic and Glimmer Glass to help differentiate between the decades.

We had a third Alexa Mini, which I used when I needed to operate the Libra Head on a Technocrane, Aurora Head on a Chapman Hybrid Dolly, alongside my trusted A-camera dolly grip, Adam Kogelman who proved to be an invaluable asset on some of the most challenging moves of the series,” says Chapelle. “We also had sequences which we filmed at the famous Wormsloe Plantation in Georgia with a stabilised head on an Electric Bike, which was ridden by fearless stunt rider Regis Harrington and set up by stabilised head technician, Duncan More, while I operated the camera on the gimbal!

The fascinating story behind The Act unravels over eight episodes, only on streaming service Hulu.

Richard Chapelle ACS is an Australian cinematographer, based in the United States.

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